Nothing “Safe” About It: Companies That Falsely Certify Compliance with the U.S.- E.U Safe-Harbor Framework May Receive Years of Regulatory Oversight

In 2000, the European Commission and U.S. Department of Commerce developed the so-called “U.S.-E.U. Safe-Harbor Framework” as a way to foster data transfer between the United States and E.U. countries notwithstanding concerns that U.S. privacy laws do not offer the same level of protection as E.U. laws with respect to personally identifiable information. As part of the safe-harbor framework, companies that choose to enter the program must publicly declare compliance with the safe-harbor requirements, which include adherence to seven privacy principles touching on the areas of notice, access, data integrity, individual choice (opt in/out rules), security, third-party transfer, and enforcement. The principle of “enforcement” includes making sure that procedures are in place to verify a company’s adherence to the rules and a sanctions regime sufficient to ensure compliance.